Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean I can’t: Don’t kill me for it!

We can agree to disagree on our personal choices, even those which are harmful to the planet: what we cannot do is impose our views on others violently.

As we come to accept more and more – well, at least most of us are coming to accept more and more – that global warming and climate change are real, we are also realising that certain habits to which we have become accustomed over the years (decades, centuries, millennia?) need to change if we are to avoid catastrophe around the world.

The biggest shift we need to make is the need to stop, or at least drastically reduce, our reliance on fossil fuels. We seem to be getting there, albeit slowly, perhaps too slowly to make any real difference. Oh well, hope springs eternal!

Another custom that is not helpful is the consumption of meat. Eating all that beef especially contributes massively to greenhouse gases – cows belch and fart a lot! – and also sucks up a lot of water. Many think we should eschew our carnivorous diets and go vegan.

As a consequence, anti-meat activism is gaining ground in some countries. We see the odd protest or ad on TV/online expressing concern not just about the effects on the environment but also the effects on all those animals (the animal rights movement).

In all honesty, we should reduce, if not eliminate completely, our penchant for scarfing burgers. I myself try to eat a few dinners per week in which there is no meat, as I know that is better for me as well as for our Earth.

However, it is one thing to make such decisions oneself or to be politely urged to do so by the aforementioned activists: it is quite another for coercion or even violent extremism to be employed in this regard.

Terrorism in the furtherance of animal rights? Do tell!

At the softer end we come across stories such as this one in which animal rights proponents try to actually interdict the transport of cows for slaughter: in September of 2020 the Ontario government amended an agri-food bill, making it illegal to stop or obstruct a truck carrying farm animals. One person was actually killed trying to do so in June while trying to stop a pig truck. This is of course not terrorism.

Sometimes it is.

On other occasions, the anti-meat crowd gets very violent. This is particularly true in India where Hindu extremists (Hindus see cows as sacred) have beaten and killed those – usually Muslim – who consume beef. I covered this ‘cow vigilantism‘ at some length in my latest book When Religion Kills.

This form of violence in India has to be called what it is: religious terrorism. One group has taken it upon itself to impose its own morals and standards on another, up to and including the taking of life. There really is no other way to label this form of violence.

As time goes on and climate change likely worsens it will be interesting to see where this goes. Will we witness animal rights proponents blowing up farms? Will they beat or even murder those in meatpacking plants? Will they put a price on the head of those who frequent McDonalds?

The reader may think that this sounds a little dire, but terrorism has arisen recently in the least expected of areas before (think Buddhist terrorism in Sri Lanka and Myanmar – yep, ‘Buddhist terrorism’ is not an oxymoron!).

For those who think they are right, or who think ‘god’ is on their side, there are no limits. The taking of a life is justified in the interests of a larger ’cause’.

There has to be a way to work this out without resorting to violent extremism. We must debate civilly our use of animals as food: after all, we are supposed to be thinking, rational animals ourselves.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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